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Sunday, March 3, 2013

february reads


This post is about the books I read in February. Last month I quoted my favourite passages from each of the books I liked this time I’ll let you know why and in some cases how I got to read the following books.

In the House of the Worm-George R.R. Martin.

In 2011 I kept putting off watching the game of thrones tv series, I wanted it to all end first, and I wanted to be done with university. Then I finally watched it. I sat down and slipped in a DVD and that music that’s become so hauntingly familiar began playing, all through the first episode I wasn’t sold until the final scene when (SPOILER ALERT) Bran, the ten year old Stark child, walked in on the queen and her brother in the midst of twincest. Jaime Lannister throws him out of a window and the first episode ends. I dare anyone to stop right then, I couldn’t, I just kept watching and a whole day ended. Then the first season ends with the birth of dragons and I couldn’t imagine waiting for all those months in order to find out what happens next, I picked up the books, began to read them and was lost to human society for weeks. When I finally emerged the world of ice and fire seemed so much more real than th one i actually walk in. I knew names and heraldries, I had dreams about these people and then I found out that the space between the books is about 5 years meaning a long, long wait for more material, I began reading his back catalogue which stretches past fantasy into horror and science fiction. Every once in a while I get an itch for more of him and so I read this story.

The Dream Chasers-Claudette Odour.

When I first started blogging I wanted to read more stuff by Kenyan writers and I had no idea how to get recommendations about what blogs to read. A friend of mine suggested that I should read Biko’s blog and so I did, it was amazing writing and then it hit me that I could see where the commenters linked to. So that’s what I started doing clicking on the names of those who commented so that I read where it took me. This worked because it introduced me to a lot of blogs I read to this day. There was one link to a blog called lostinthot. I remember the writing being so poetic and lyrical that it was addictive. That blog doesn’t exist anymore but the writer has another one up soulfool.me  click on that and read the first post, read more than that, trust me it’s worth your time. Later I found out she had written a book and it was available on amazon.com. The price was very friendly and I have a friend with an amazon account so I asked a favour and got it to read in no time at all.

Twenty Years Later- Alexandre Dumas

Last year I read the three musketeers and loved it. I laughed and laughed all through. There was so much drama  it was like a season of 24. This book is the continuation of those adventures. It catches up with the four adventurers 20 years after the events of the first book. Another reason I decided to read it was that I reread the club dumas by Arturo Perez last year, a book that serves as a sort of homage to Dumas’ books with all the tropes of an adventure serial trotted out and displayed and at the same time examined since it follows a rare book-hunter who knows quite a bit about Dumas. One of the characters called twenty years after one of the best odes to friendships that there is. These men meet after all these years and the things that happen to people happened to them, they are not really friends anymore and one of them says, “it is that the honest emotions of youth have given place to suggestions of interest,  whispers of ambition, counsels of selfishness” someone else says, “at two and twenty a one calls every man one’s friend.” Unfortunately the love I had for this continuing story ran the same course as that the musketeers felt for each other and I left off before I could finish the book.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian- Marina Lewycka.

I was in town at around 8 p.m. one Sunday when I bumped into one of those book hawkers. You know, the ones who spread out all these books in a blanket and sell them for about 50 shillings. The thing about those guys is that I stop every time I see them, every single time and try to find a better use for that money than buying credit. I was doing this when I saw the book above. The title drew me and stupidly I picked it up just to see if it was actually in Ukrainian. Then I decided to buy it, which goes to show how much a good title can do for a book.

Never let me go- Kazoo Ishiguro


I really like Lev Grossman, he’s the one of the book critics for Time magazine. He’s funny and interesting and you can tell he loves books. He talks about them with so much passion in his heart you could never doubt it. He and Richard Lacayo did a thing for the magazine some where they wrote about the best 100 book since time(the magazine began.) in it he wrote about this book and this is what was said:

Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are students at Hailsham, a very exclusive, very strange English private school. They are treated well in every respect, but as they grow older they come to realize that there is a secret that haunts their lives: Their teachers regard them with fear and pity, and they don’t know why. Once they learn the secret it is already far, far too late for them to save themselves. Set in a darkling alternate-universe version of England, and told with dry-eyed, white-knuckled restraint, Never Let Me Go is an improbable masterpiece, a science fiction horror story written as high tragedy by a master literary stylist. It’s postmodern in its conception, but Ishiguro isn’t playing games or chasing trends: The human drama of Never Let Me Go, its themes of atrocity and acceptance, are timeless and, sadly, permanent.




That’s why I read that book and it was worth it.

The Road-Cormac McCarthy.

We used to keep the radio in the dining room in the house i grew up in. It was inside this glass cabinet and you had to bend down low in order to fiddle with it. I was being pretentious and listening to the BBC, there was a show that used to come at around 2:30 on thursdays or wednesdays. It was called the strand. It was a radio show about culture and art. Three british people would talk quietly, precisely about what had come out that week.

This week they talked about the film the road which was based off of the book i eventually read. They talked about its depiction of an apocalypse as two people, the man and his son the boy walked along a road. It sounded bleak and desperate  It sounded grey and as it turns out it was. I saw someone selling the book for 50 shillings and snatched it up.

Farewell to Arms-Ernst Hemmingway

I’ve wanted to read Hemmingway for so long and have subsequently read so much about him that I thought it would be impossible to pinpoint the beginning of my motivation to read this book. Then I remembered or at least I think I did. I love the west wing. It was an American drama about politics and all the attendant themes set in the white house. One episode has the chief of staff sent to negotiate with Fidel Castro(sometimes they mentioned real people in the fictional world where it would make no sense to pretend they don’t exist.) he stays at a house that Hemmingway owned in Cuba. And this quote was mentioned in the episode:

The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places but those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very strong and the very gentle indiscriminately.

I don’t know why this touched me so much maybe because it captures my twin cynicism in the world and faith in humanity to reinvent itself despite all of that. It was a quote I carried around for so long, and then I began to read about Hemmingway, about how much he drank, how much he lived and travelled and how sad he died(self-wielded shotgun to the mouth.) I read that in a barroom bet he wrote a short story in 6 words: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.  And finally I read him, it took too long.

East of Eden-John Steinbeck

I read  the kite runner  some time ago and it touched me in ways books should but don’t always. Its main theme of the relationship between fathers and sons and how that has in it so much bitterness, disappointment and betrayal as well as beauty, redemption and pride resonated very deeply with me. At the back of the book Khaleed Hosseini is interviewed about his top ten favourite books. Grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck was on the list I think it was first. He talks about the ending scene of that novel and the quiet dignity in shameful circumstances that it gives its characters. It sounded sad and moving but hopeful at the same time. On the street I found this book instead and snatched it up. No regrets here.